Don’t be fooled by his light eyes and polite demeanour — Jack Palmer is a defensive weapon.
At 22 years old, the Victoria native has one of the more decorated resumes on the UVic Vikes roster.
Standing 6’2” and 196 lbs, the two-way centre / left winger not only played in the Western Hockey League (WHL), but skated for Vancouver Island’s only WHL franchise, the Victoria Royals. Now, the goalscorer turned shut-down man has now added the Vikes to his playing portfolio.
And now his current team-leading scoring total has Victoria asking: is Palmer the Vikes’ best forward?
Palmer was scouted during his second year of Bantam playing for the South Island Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget League (BCMML).
It was then that various WHL clubs began approaching him.
“I had a really good season and I was a really strong player,” Palmer says. “So I thought I had a shot at getting drafted [into the WHL].”
Once he was drafted 175th overall by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, Palmer started to take hockey seriously. Addressing his skating and strength during that summer, Palmer elevated his game. Hard work surely pays off, because Palmer dominated over the 2010–2011 season.
Before joining the Wheat Kings, Palmer elected to play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL). There was not a place for him yet on the Wheat Kings, and though the South Island Royals of the BCMML were calling, Palmer wasn’t interested.
“Guys are bigger [in the VIJHL],” he says. “There is more hitting, and I wanted to get a feel for playing against guys that were 19 and 20.”
Palmer won Rookie of the Year with the Saanich Braves, scoring 24 goals and recording 29 assists for 53 points in 37 games.
“I play with Ty Jones who was the best player in the league, debatably,” Palmer says, but the truth is he did not benefit solely from his line-mate. Palmer excelled in every possible role that year: from special teams to high-minute five-on-five action.
But in sports, success generally comes in waves.
WHL: WHEAT KINGS & ROYALS
In his first full season in Brandon, Palmer struggled to produce.
“I played a lot,” he says, “I was young and from [the Wheat Kings’] perspective I was skilled, and they wanted to develop me . . . but our team placed last. We had the youngest team in the WHL by far.” Consisting of mostly 16- and 17-year-olds, no one on the team broke out offensively all season.
With several young players progressing the following year, Palmer was pushed back in the line-up and did not secure a consistent role until he was traded to the Royals early into the 2013–14 season for a couple late-round draft picks.
Though Palmer hadn’t proven himself a point man in the WHL yet, local fans and media were ecstatic at his return. In Victoria, the forward, praised for his skills so far in his career, settled into a third and fourth line role, and did so with pride. For two seasons, Palmer was part of an amazing group of Royals. Successful teams also must rely on defensive forwards, secondary scorers, and energy players (i.e. the Derek Dorsetts of hockey) to win games.
Palmer himself will tell you it’s not enough to just have skills.
“[The WHL is] great for some players, and for others, from my experience, there are a ton of skilled players in the [league], yet they may not break 20 to 30 points,” Palmer told the BCIHL Podcast after committing to the Vikes. “[It’s] not that they don’t have what it takes, it’s who can capitalize on chances and opportunities.”
Despite still having a year of WHL eligibility, Palmer knew that the Royals were evolving. Wanting to remain on the island, start university, and continue playing hockey, the BCIHL became the best fit for Palmer. He finished his WHL career with 36 points in 180 games.
BCIHL: UVIC VIKES
Since Palmer’s experience was valuable, Vikes Hockey Coach Harry Schamhart expected the then 20-year-old to lead. It was a unique role for a rookie. Schamhart respected Palmer, and with that came trust in defense and the offensive freedom he missed.
Transitioning from the WHL to the BCIHL was no sweat for Palmer. Major junior is a high-pressure and physically demanding league with a longer season. The BCIHL, though still competitive, is balanced. Pressure still looms, as school is demanding, but balancing hockey with his studies in business is helping Palmer “get [his] feel back.”
Palmer missed a few games in his freshman year due to injury, but he was part of the ailing group of Vikes who all returned just in time to make a championship run.
“[I had] fairly minor injuries, but [they were] enough to keep me out of the lineup . . . I definitely did miss more games than I would have liked,” says Palmer. But winning the championship was what mattered. Palmer, like many of his teammates, realized while warming up in their first playoff game that the Vikes were healthy for the first time in their 2016–2017 campaign.
“It was a huge confidence boost for us . . . [and] I think it all worked out.” Palmer currently leads the Vikes in points this season and has scored 12 goals and 25 points in his 35-game collegiate hockey career.
THE SEASON AHEAD
Palmer does not dispute this year has been challenging.
Still a young leader at 22 years old, he recognizes the roster is different and the team needs to re-group, especially after dropping their last three games to the Selkirk Saints. Last year’s accomplishment should be a motivation, not an expectation, but Vikes fans and can always expect a solid performance from the young veteran forward in Palmer.